"Once Frankie's asleep, my best-friend superstrength disappears. My breathing shatters, tears blur the stars in the overhead skylight, and all the old ghosts I tried to leave home float like dandelion seed wishes into our room." - Twenty Boy Summer (ARC version) by Sarah Ockler
Best friends, first love, summer vacations, sparkling sea glass, heartache and loss, Sarah Ockler's YA book, Twenty Boy Summer, contains it all. Friends since childhood, Anna and brother and sister duo Frankie and Matt spend all their time together. But a frosting covered kiss between Matt and Anna on Anna's 15th birthday changes the dynamic of the friendship between the three friends. The two keep their relationship a secret from Frankie, waiting for the perfect moment to tell her and let it sink in. But before the secret is divulged their lives tragically change. Matt dies. Frankie and Anna struggle to deal with the loss, neither able to truthfully share their feelings with each other. A year later and still grieving in their own separate ways they set out on a "family vacation" with Frankie's parents to Zanzibar Bay, vowing to meet 20 boys and have the Absolute Best Summer Ever.
Ockler takes readers on ocean wave ride of emotions in her debut book, writing from Anna's point of view about the highs of new found love and the lows of death and sadness. Ockler's honest dealings with grief and her ability to portray the reality of how quickly life can change, how quickly friendships can change, how families can be torn apart and brought back together by sorrow--that is the strength of this book. It is easy to relate to each of the characters; their feelings and emotions are very real as well as the descriptions of place. I could feel the summer ocean breeze, listen to the calming shhh, ahhh of the waves and understand the elation and sadness of each individual. I found myself transported right back to my teenage years, back to the experiences of the first kiss, first boyfriend, first time falling in love.
Twenty Boy Summer contains many perfect, wonderful parts. Sea glass, sometimes thought of as tears of a love sick mermaid, perfectly symbolizes grief and a broken heart. I loved how Ockler used sea glass in her book, how Anna comes to terms with her own fractured heart and can find beauty in something broken. However, I must mention that I also found myself I bit disappointed by some not so perfect parts. The book's title is 20 Boy Summer. I realized there would be boy moments, boy crushes, that sort of thing. But, as a Christian and mother, I was bothered by the carefree treatment of the loss of one's virginity, an “albatross” to be cast off. The book does not effectively deal with the emotions involved in a physical relationship and because of some of the mature content of the book involving sex and drinking, I cannot recommend it for younger teens. I wish that Ockler had dealt with this part of her plot in a different way because overall the book is wonderfully written, a compelling and touching YA read perfect for a summer day.
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. Little, Brown and Company (June 2009); 304 pages; ISBN 9780316051590; Young Adult
ARC Review copy provided for free by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Sarah Ockler: Author Website
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